MANILA - Sen. Leila de Lima has filed a bill seeking to investigate if the government's intelligence funds are properly used.
"Throughout the years, this secrecy that surrounds the disbursement and utilization of intelligence and confidential funds has been used not only to protect intelligence activities but also to hide abuses in the utilization of these funds," De Lima said in a statement Thursday.
Under Senate Bill No. 377, a Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee (JCIC) will be created and tasked to monitor and oversee intelligence activities, which include President Rodrigo Duterte's administration and financial management and expenditures of intelligence agencies.
De Lima said the government must probe the P2.5 billion annual intelligence funds reportedly received by the Office of the President under the 2017, 2018 and 2019 General Appropriations Acts(GAA) for its intelligence and confidential activities in connection with its war on drugs and criminality.
"Because of the necessary secrecy in the use of funds, these amounts appear as lump sums in the annual GAA and are not subject to the stringent regular auditing requirements of the Commission on Audit," said De Lima.
Under the bill, all entities of the Philippine government which conduct intelligence activities and receive intelligence funds must inform JCIC of all its intelligence activities, including any significant activity and failure.
If enacted into law, the measure will order concerned government offices to obtain a signed letter from the President, or from the respective head of the constitutional body in cases involving entities enjoying financial autonomy, specifically authorizing the proposed intelligence activity before any amount is disbursed and expended for the proposed intelligence activity.
Then, the President or the respective head of the constitutional body are required to provide the JCIC a copy of the authorization letter within 72 hours.
The former Justice secretary stressed the importance to maintain balance between maintaining confidentiality, upholding accountability and protecting civil liberties.
"Intelligence funds must be properly utilized to prepare for the threats to national security rather than for partisan or dubious activities of any government official," De Lima said.